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Journal of Arminath Wynterby Jim Bobb
After getting a good day's rest my companions and myself have made ready to leave Shimmergloom. Before leaving there was a great fest and the subjects of my realm unveiled a grand work of art dedicated in my name: they carved a great pillar in the central cavern as a tribute to my life! It hath humbled me like no other event in my life, to see loyal people dedicate a great amount of time and effort to show appreciation to a single person. Everything was there, frozen in stone and gem and magical phantasms. Even more amazing was the fact that it was done totally without my knowledge!
When the last person had gone home, my companions and myself made ready to leave. Kylie, my daughter and a priestess of Valerias, was totally silent. We exchanged no words, but it seemed that everything that needed to be said was. Then we left.
We've travelled to Mirros to meet a mage named Saren. It seems he has a new magic useful against magical attacks. If we're to enter the tomb of an ancient wizard, this seems a prudent move.
The first night in the city proper I've reverted to my Traladaran native disguise. No use drawing attention of any elves to be seen about. We've agreed to meet at the Black-Heart Lily, a place frequented by myself when visiting this fair human town, after the others have made a few last-minute purchases.
After we've waited for 3 days it seems Saren is going to be away for longer than we can wait. Last night while eating in the common room a chill wind blew in and the city was blanketed by a thick fog. One of the tavern patrons was leaving and was forcibly jerked through the door, his screams of protest cut off, as if his very life was extinguished in an instant. The tavern was dead silent for an instant until myself and companions rushed headlong into the fog, to help the unfortunate man. We found him laying not more than 10 feet from the tavern door! The poor man was missing a leg and part of his head was gone, ripped forcibly off. As we examined him shapes formed out of the fog, revealing themselves to be Wights dressed in the tattered remains of sailors' clothes! We fought 10 of the foul creatures and destroyed them all thanks to Anna's Immortal granted powers against the unliving. Unfortunately Anna and Targus were wounded by the creatures' rending claws and Anna no longer has the power to reverse the damage. We learnt from other tavern patrons the man killed was named Caspan, a hand on a local barge.
Talk in the Lily was of the uncanny looks of the wight bodies to vanished sailors of another local barge. The Lily's barkeep told us that the barge captain's name was Payvin and he could be found on the docks during the day, trying to find a new crew. We shall check this out in the morning on our way out of town. I wish not to waste too much time on something that the local guards can check out, but mine interest hath been piqued.
We found Payvin, but something hath come up that frightens me to the core of my own being. Payvin was at the docks, soliciting sailors to crew his barge when we approached him. He told us of a run-in he had the night he thought his crew deserted. A creature, human-looking but with sharp fangs and claws awaited him on the barge. He said that it told him that its master, the Devourer, would soon have them all under its power.
Once, when I was much younger and newer to the World Above, I joined a brave band of heroes that thought I was a surface elf that just did one magical experiment too many. We travelled to a tomb that had many a deadly trap and confounding puzzles, both mundane and magical in nature. I wish in my youth I had the foresight to keep journals as I do now. In this tomb we reached the vault of it's deceased owner and battled a terrible creature. In desperation the few of the group left fled, never to meet again. I know not if any of the others made it out, but the tomb's owner called himself Acererak, the Devourer.
We consulted with a local sage and he confirmed (after a hefty fee) that an ancient wizard known as the Devourer practiced dark magic dealing with the life essence and sprits of living creatures. Also found (for an additional fee, this human was more of a con artist than sage methinks) was that a reclusive mage named Verath the Gaunted had taken interest in the Devourer as well, leading an expedition over 2 decades ago. We discovered the location of his last known tower (after some persuasion from Targus) being somewhere northwest of the Barony of Halag in the southern most portion of the Cruth Mountains. We leave in the morning, our pockets more full from the deeds of Gervus (Hin warrior my left foot, more as not the little cad is more of an acquirer of others property than a warrior!).
'Tis been many days since my last entry, so I wilt try and recall what I canst remember of the recent events.
We left Mirros the day following our talk with the sage Ahrens. Travelling westward to Luln our eventual destination was Halag, where mineself and Uldras hoped to find information on a more precise location of Verath's Tower. I've 'visited' the old Fort Doom in the days of Baron von Hendriks and remember a few hidden locations that human scoundrel Bargle set himself in case his own scheming went awry. I'm of the mind that Barge knew of Verath's home, for either conquering or magical trade.
The trip to Luln was not without its difficulties. There were minor skirmishes with goblinoids and orc-kin. The more disturbing thing was the amount of undead that we were beset with. It seems like for every creature that was put down, a day or two later undead creatures would attack. Eventually we made our destinations, stopping in Luln long enough for a good night's rest and learning the undead problem was rampant all over the region.
We made good time to Halag, with Gervus detailing the fall of the Black Eagle very well. His stories were full of personal comments and he even produced evidence that he was among the hin that kidnapped the good King Stephan to start it all. Amazing what ye can learn of ye're companions when travelling through their old stomping grounds.
Halag was uneventful, as far as things go. We had the same monster problems that the rest of the inhabitants of the barony have. More undead as well. They seemed to be in greater numbers here, for some reason. After gaining access to one of Bargle's safeholds we've learnt that he was planning to duel Verath but never got the chance, for Verath disappeared without a trace. This was about 22 years ago, by Bargle's notes. We sacked what was not taken by Bargle on his flight from the barony. A few useful spell scrolls, magical trinkets and blank books mostly.
Resting here we will set out for Verath's Tower in the morn.
Ahh I love the countryside! I have forgotten much about the other parts of this human realm than those closest to my cavern realm. We followed the river north till a suitable crossing was found, then skirted the swamp to the west. This area has changed much in the centuries. The whole time we were beset by orc- and goblin-kin and lizard men and by undead of those races. It seems that the farther north we go, the more undead there are.
Within sight of the mountains we were attacked by hill giants! The great brutes actually surprised us by hiding on the fringe of the swamp under tangled mats of weaved swamp grass, then jumped out! It was a terrific battle, with all of us taking terrible wounds, but we all were accounted for thanks to Uldras. It was his timely casting of a spell he calls 'Alter Gravity' on the leader of the giantish band. With their leader shot into the sky by great magic, the giants divided and fled.
After travelling to the base of the mountains, we found the formations described by Bargle's notes that lead us to the pass into Verath's canyon tower. It was agreed by all that a night's rest before tackling the defences the mage left behind would be a good idea. Outside the mountain pass, we found a small defensible area that was surrounded by rock formations, hard enough for us to get into, let alone any attackers.
Wounded and tired we made camp, awaiting the morn to see what Verath left behind. Mineself, I wonder what Verath knew of this Devourer and what happened to him. I am apprehensive as to what may await us in the tower. Verath may still be there, in one form or another, using stories of an unguarded tower to lure others to their doom.
How stupid of mineself! Tis been a long day, that started a few hours after we'd camped last night.
With the fire being tended and kept low by Gervus, the rest of us had lain down for some rest. At some point later, we were all awakened by Gervus' shrill screams. Boulders the size of wagon wheels rained down on us from the cliffs far above. We scattered to avoid being too near the fire, but Targus was a might too slow and was critically wounded, his left arm and leg crushed when one landed on him.
Against her better judgement, Anna cast an earthquake and nearly killed us all when the cliffside came tumbling down, with the giants. Methinks we were wounded more from the shaking and falling rock than the enemy. They fell a great distance but appeared to be more angered than injured.
With them in sight now Uldas and myself cast spells. Uldas threw a fireball whilst I cast an elemental blast. This seemed to work better than dropping them on their heads. Gervus used his sling (amusing to watch I assure you) whilst Anna tended to Targus. A few more spells followed from Uldas and mineself at the giants until they fled. At first I had thought they were hill giants, but Targus indicated that they were more deadly than that; they were mountain giants. No wonder the fall didn't kill them.
Our choice of campsites was poor indeed! The terrain prevented most ground creatures from easily accessing our sleeping forms, but attacks from above actually redirected falling objects into the camp, like an alchemists funnel. No more sleep found us this night, for there could be more of the giants above and the quake caused by Anna probably attracted every beastie within 5 miles. We let her know the importance of thinking before acting. I stopped Targus short of calling her actions unwise...something tells me that questioning her wisdom would start something that I would not want my companions to finish.
Just before dawn Gervus scouted the pass. Upon his return we learnt of a hastily erected barricade of rock with hill giant and ogres hiding behind it farther in the pass. We hit it at dawn with everything we had. In quick succession I cast thunderlance and thunderclap spells whilst Uldras threw blackbolt spells. Targus catapulted himself with his magical ballistic ring. Interesting effect, this ring. It has the ability to fire any object no larger than a 5' cube that it is touched to in any direction the wearer desires. I hadn't known that the wearer could do this to himself!
Targus flew high and wide over the barricade, smashing hard into a hill giant. Twas a strange sight to see indeed! A flying dwarf with an audience of giants and giant-kin just staring up into the sky, following his trajectory.
Between the spells and Targus' high flying tactics the barricade was overcome relatively easily as far as fighting entrenched giants goes. Within an hour after dawn we arrived at Verath's Tower.
The tower itself was dilapidated and partially tumbled and boulders made of uncarved stone littered the box canyon. Expecting attack from above, we spotted a cave opening a full 1,000 feet above the tower. Using the cover of the littered landscape we made the tower with no attack.
After exploring the tower all day, nothing but a strange door and a secret passage up have been found. The strange door has glyphs over its surface and feels extremely hot to the touch. We decided to take our chances with the secret door.
The secret door was breached quite easily and opened to a passage that resembled an rough alchemists tube, curving to the right and sloping gently upwards. Another opening to our left, just past the door received some attention. It appeared to open into a wine cellar, complete with rack upon rack of wines. Gervus attempted to pass into the room after making a thorough search for mechanical traps and just as he crossed the threshold Targus shouted "Ware Hin!", scaring the spirits out of us all! Gervus reacted, albeit too late, as the walls themselves flexed and drew the poor Hin inwards to the room, like a pair of stony lips, them spit him out and into the opposite wall in the hallway. Not greatly damaged from this, Gervus agreed to continue upwards and save this curiosity for later. As we climbed Gervus was busy asking, quite in depth, how Targus was aware of such an obviously magical trap. "Sometimes the stone is just screamen for ye to look out, ye need only listen to 'er." was his only response.
After a long climb, and I say this with a background of living in the World Below, we almost reached the top. Almost, for there was a female mountain giantess holding a boulder near the top of the passage, using herself as a dead-man's switch. Anna groaned softly "a giant tube...if she dies or lets go, it'll roll all the way down...we just walked up a trap, elf." We had gotten Targus to calm down and Anna spoke with the giantess in the tongue of the hill giants. It wasn't perfect, but they understood enough of each other to make peace, so long as the "hostile small squishy" waited here. We agreed that leaving anyone alone would be foolish, so it was decided that mineself and Anna would go into the lair. Targus, a might miffed, agreed to wait with Gervus.
A wise decision Anna had made, indeed! The lair had 5 mountain giants in addition to the female and much to our dismay, a shaman with a retinue of a half dozen troll bodyguards! She bartered for our safe passage and for any treasure the wizard had left behind. Trying to sound disinterested, she learnt that Verath had charmed the shaman at one time and used his influence to keep the rest of the giant clan here to guard his tower. After the shaman broke the charm, he sent the giants and ogres from the surrounding area into the tower to destroy whatever magic they found while Verath was away. The only thing they possessed was a mahogany desk that was magically sealed and preserved. We bartered for it and after a quick inspection, had them toss it down the cliff to the valley below to await our arrival. Peacefully we left the giants to await for the return of their ex-master and their schemes for revenge for their short enslavement.
At the bottom, Anna demanded an explanation of what possessed me to allow them to take almost all of our funds in exchange for a magic desk with no key. "Tis a simple thing" I replied. "The magics of the desk reminded me of an old spell I have tucked away somewhere that a Traladaran sorceress gave me in exchange for some tutoring many years ago. Zandra's Protected Possession. Relatively simple, it magically seals and protects an object, like a chest or in this case a desk with a folding lid, from physical damage." It took but a few spells to remove the enchantment and get the blasted thing forced open. That Verath trusted no one...magical warding, 2 different types of traps and a multiple tumbler lock! Gervus nearly busted his belly by the time he figured out the tumbler sequence!
Inside we found the remains of shattered potion vials (broken long ago, no doubt by the giants attempts to open the thing) and many rotted journals and spell scrolls, now all useless. Gervus' poking revealed a hidden compartment that contained a magical stone and the remains of a journal. Inside are notes of Verath's preparations for a journey to the Tomb of the Devourer in the company of Falon T'selvin of Luln. There is an obscure reference to some magical amulet he believes will allow him to divine or find the true incarnation of the Devourer...by the immortals, the thing we fought all those years ago was horrifying enough, to think it has another form...
We are teleporting to Luln in the morn. I need time to rest and everyone has wounds that Anna needs time to tend to. This venture has gotten worse with each day. Mayhaps my patron has sent me on a suicide mission...have I been unfaithful in some way to the memory of my beloved?
After casting a teleport spell, we split up in Luln to find this Falon person, or someone that knows of him. Several unsuccessful queries were finally met by success. An old timer in Baron Sascia's city guard remembered Falon and with a laugh told me that he now resides at the end of the Elmwood road. I don't understand human humour sometimes, and didn't understand what was so funny about this, but humans will be human I suppose.
After gathering everyone we went to Elmwood road. Nothing was at the end except for the town cemetery! Humans have such deviant humour sometimes. Nevertheless, only one person was in the place, so he was the only person left to ask. After a short conversation, we learnt the man's name was Gunther. Gunther is a hulking man, probably with some ogrish blood in his lineage somewhere. Not terribly brighter than an ogre either, from the talk we had with him. He showed us where Falon was, laid under an expensive tombstone and recounted how he had his hand eaten by the big green demon near the tomb's entrance. It IS the same place I had been inside those centuries ago! Apparently Falon and his companions fared no better than mine, leaving a dozen of their number behind, dead or dying. He, Gunther and a 'pretty lady' escaped the tomb, Verath nowhere to be found after the fight with Acererak began in the tomb's vault. Over the course of the conversation, Gunther must have figured we meant to enter that hellish place, for he declared he would accompany us. He also imparted upon us that Verath had entered the tomb with an amulet he fussed over constantly, but the 'pretty lady' left with it. All this said, we allowed Gunther to lead us to the 'pretty lady', who now resides in Halag. And they say adventurers travel far and wide. No one ever tells epic ballads of those that travel in circles.
The journey back to Halag was worse than when we had left. I'll not recount it here, but it will suffice to say that should I ever have the power to destroy the unliving, then they shall be no more. Gunther is a formidable warrior and impressed Targus several times with his great axe he calls 'Elsie'. The weapon is powerfully enchanted, and bears even stronger enchantments when used against the unliving...a very useful weapon indeed. I have to admit privately though, the first time we got into battle whilst travelling back to Halag I was nearly killed by a lowly skeleton. Gunther hefted his axe and screamed "Make them little bits Elsie!" as I was drawing my blade to attack a nearby skeleton. I began laughing so hard that I threw my blade and proceeded to dodge into one of the unliving warrior's thrusts. Unable to get its blade out of me, the foul thing began raking me with its bony fingers. I thought my life was near its end, with this old blade run clear through my body and its owner clawing me to shreds. Anna finally got to me, nearly too late. It had to be a human that enchanted the axe, for no elf, or even a dwarf for that matter, wouldst curse a worthy weapon such as that with the name 'Elsie'. Human humour is twisted.
We tried to spend a quiet night in Halag, but to no avail. An upstart elf that I missed spotting whilst approaching town immediately challenged me to a duel of magical wits. I accepted so long as concession would be acceptable for victory, so as not to have to resort to killing her. We cast prepatory magic as the others cleared the area, then let loose against each other. In quick succession she cast lightning bolts, magical missiles, some sort of blast spell, and a few other, more exotic magics that even I couldn't identify. I, for my part, only cast 1 spell the entire time; the Wychlamp's Aura. Every magic that came at me was deflected or negated. I just waved my arms about and uttered fragments of incantations in order to look like I was doing actual work. This elf was powerful, but must have been book taught by her mentor; she threw everything she knew without regard for any others that may have been caught in a backblast or miscasting. She finally ran out of spells and was forced to concede when I cast a minor magecraft spell and tweaked her backside, proving I still had magic left to battle with. She left in a huff.
The rest of the night was uneventful as far as real threats are concerned. In my dreams though, I was pursued by a pair of red eyes. Why am I being hounded even in my dreams over this? Why does not my patroness guide me through this? I pray, but yet she no longer answers. I feel so alone now, on this fool's mission. An aging elf looking to find the fire of his own youth...by the serpent's tongue I sound like a human!
In the morn we let Gunther lead us the his 'pretty lady'. He led us out of town about a mile to a small, unassuming hovel. A ancient woman answered our calls, demanding to know why her peace hath been disturbed. When she opened her door and saw Gunther she cracked a small smile and apologised as she hugged the gigantic man. Something about this haggard woman was familiar, but the recognition wasn't there.
After allowing her and Gunther the satisfaction of catching up, Anna introduced us. The old woman's name was Sather Uth'Marl...The High Priestess of Valerias! It was through her that Valerias allowed my wife to become mortal for my lifetime! And through her that our daughter had become ordained in the priesthood of Valerias as well! At that time she was a vibrant woman in her late 20 years. Now she appeared to be in her late 120 years, over twice her natural age it seems. When she learned of our intent to enter the tomb, she said little else, but gave us a Journal that Verath kept during their failed foray. The more we questioned her, the more she retreated, until she finally had a nervous breakdown, trembling and screaming to make the voices of the fallen stop! Gunther told us to stop hurting his friend and leave. Unable to set right the damage we had inadvertently done, we turned to go. Sather stopped us and uttered a final warning: "The tomb is a trap for the heroic, Arminath...if it doesn't kill you and yours outright, it will destroy your hope, then your vitality, and finally, your faith. What enters never returns."
I finally realised there were no holy objects to Valerias, or any other immortal at all to be seen about...this bodes ill indeed.